Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Jamel Dean triumphs over adversity on his way to mental toughness.
Muschamp, the man who believed in his abilities, left to take a head coaching job in South Carolina. Dean could never adapt to Muschamp and injury struck again. Prior to the 2016 season during fall camp, Dean tore his ACL in his left knee. After suffering another devastating setback, he sank into depression.
“I’ve reached my breaking point,” Dean described. “I basically just went to my dorm and sat in the dark and cried. I said, ‘Man, maybe football just isn’t for me? I called my mom and said, ‘Mom, I think I’m ready to quit.’ But I had a good support system, and they didn’t allow it.”
Initially, Dean closed. He became a “shell” of himself and did not feel comfortable revealing how he felt. As he began to sift through the myriad of emotions, self-doubt and relentless circumstances, the harsh words he spoke to himself took their toll. The derogatory thoughts began to affect her mental state. He didn’t feel comfortable enough to become vulnerable to a therapist, but knew he needed help. Once it all worked out, Dean asked his family and teammates for advice. His loved ones stepped in and carried the weight of his burdens on them so Dean wouldn’t have to face them alone.
“The mind is a powerful thing,” Dean emphasized emphatically. “Sometimes you can be oblivious to the way you are behaving. You can be so stuck in a rut that you don’t realize you are sick. Just suppressing your feelings in your body only makes you worse. building up like a ticking time bomb, really. It waits until a point where you’re finally at your breaking point, and you reach the point of no return…my mom and my teammates at Auburn encouraged me. They’ve said, “You didn’t come all the way here just to give up.” I had to believe in myself and realize, if they believed in me so much, why couldn’t I believe in myself like that?
“I had a guy I went to school with, his name was Josh Hosely, and he was an inspiration to me because he also tore his two anterior cruciate ligaments and that he had just come back from an injury that year. I saw how he came out and made great plays and received a chance to go to the NFL. I thought, ‘If he was able to do it, I just have to have a good mindset.’ I took it upon myself to go through the whole rehab process that year and got back together.”
Circumstances do not dictate character but reveal it. In the darkest days of isolation, Dean was able to fight depression despite his situation by investing in his mental health and seeking advice from people around him whom he trusted. After suffering in silence, Dean made the brave decision to become transparent, generating the strength he needed to begin his rehabilitation. While most would have given up, he decided to wholeheartedly manifest his goals and dreams. Dean found himself healthy and became a two-year starter for the Tigers. During his 2017-18 collegiate tenure, Dean had 73 total tackles, one sack, two interceptions, 17 passes defended and one fumble recovery in 26 starts. His most notable performance came against Texas A&M, where he had seven tackles, a fumble recovery and a sack.
With a rare combination of height (6’1″, 205 lbs) and speed (4.30 40-yard sprint), Dean caught the attention of evaluators. With an easy transition, Dean showed his efficiency in getting out quickly breaks to match fast mid-lane receivers for the Tigers.He was known for his prowess as a press coverage player, his physicality on the line of scrimmage and his ability to disrupt at the point of capture.Dean entered in the NFL Draft after his junior year as a redshirt.
The Cocoa, Florida native has fallen under the radar due to question marks from teams over long-term damage to his knees that could hamper his career. At the scouting combine, he caught the media’s attention when he posted his 4.3 dash for 40 yards, the fastest time among the defensive backs group. He was deadly when used on corner blitzes for Auburn and became an ideal candidate for the Buccaneers offensive scheme. The Buccaneers were confident in Dean’s health and selected him in the third round (94th overall pick) in the 2019 NFL Draft.